Chaos and Violence Erupt in Brazil-Argentina World Cup Qualifier

Ashraful Arefin
6 min readNov 22, 2023
Chaos and Violence Erupt in Brazil-Argentina World Cup Qualifier

A World Cup qualifier match between Brazil and Argentina, two of the most successful and rival teams in soccer history, was suspended and later abandoned on Sunday, September 5, 2021, after a bizarre and unprecedented intervention by Brazilian health authorities on the pitch. The match, which was held at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was also marred by violent clashes between fans of Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Brazil’s Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro before the game.

The Health Officials’ Raid
The match was barely 10 minutes old when officials from Brazil’s Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) stormed the field and tried to detain four Argentine players who play in the English Premier League: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa), Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), and Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham Hotspur). The officials claimed that the players had violated Brazil’s Covid-19 regulations by not declaring that they had been in the UK in the past 14 days. According to Brazil’s rules, any traveler who has been in the UK, South Africa, India, or Northern Ireland in the previous 14 days must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Brazil.

Anvisa said that it had warned the Argentine delegation about the situation on Saturday, September 4, 2021, and had requested the immediate isolation of the four players. However, the Argentine team ignored the order and proceeded to include three of the players (Martinez, Romero, and Lo Celso) in the starting lineup against Brazil. Anvisa then sought the support of the Federal Police to enforce the quarantine and prevent the players from participating in the match.

The scene was chaotic and surreal, as the health officials entered the field escorted by police officers and confronted the Argentine players and staff. The players looked confused and angry, while the fans booed and whistled. The Argentine captain, Lionel Messi, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain in France, tried to reason with the officials and asked them why they waited until the match had started to take action. He also accused the Brazilian police of being disrespectful and violent. The Brazilian players, led by their captain, Neymar, who is also Messi’s teammate at PSG, also tried to calm the situation and urged the officials to let the game continue.

However, the officials insisted that the four players had to leave the field and be deported. The Argentine team then decided to walk off the field and head to the locker room, followed by the referee and his assistants. The Brazilian team remained on the field for a while, hoping that the match could be resumed, but eventually also left the field. The fans were left stunned and disappointed, as they had paid high prices for the tickets and had expected to watch a thrilling encounter between two of the best teams in the world.

The Aftermath and the Consequences
The match was officially suspended by the referee, who reported the incident to FIFA, the world governing body of soccer. FIFA later confirmed the suspension and said that it would launch an investigation to determine the consequences and the steps to follow. FIFA also said that it regretted the scenes preceding the suspension and that the primary focus should always be on the health and safety of all involved.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), the regional governing body of soccer, also issued a statement saying that the match was suspended due to a decision by the referee and that the referee and the match delegate would submit a report to FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee, which would decide the outcome of the match. CONMEBOL also said that the health protocols for the World Cup qualifiers were approved by FIFA and by all the participating countries, and that they had been complied with by the Argentine team.

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) also released a statement saying that it was unfortunate and regrettable what happened and that it was a very bad image for soccer. The AFA president, Claudio Tapia, said that the Argentine team had followed the health protocol to the letter and that there was no lie or omission on their part. He also said that the intervention by the health officials was inexplicable and arbitrary and that it violated the sporting spirit of the match.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) also expressed its surprise and dismay at the timing and the manner of the intervention by the health officials. The CBF said that it defended the implementation of the most rigorous health protocols and that it complied with them in their entirety. However, it also said that it was absolutely surprised that the health officials waited until the match had started to take action, since they had the power to do so in a more appropriate way in the days prior to the game. The CBF also said that it did not interfere at any point in relation to the health protocol established by the Brazilian authorities.

The four players involved in the controversy were eventually allowed to leave Brazil and return to Argentina, where they joined their national team for the next World Cup qualifier against Bolivia on Thursday, September 9, 2021. However, they faced the possibility of being fined, banned, or prosecuted by the Brazilian authorities for violating the quarantine rules. They also faced the risk of being punished by their clubs and by the English Premier League for traveling to a red-list country without permission and for missing several games due to the quarantine requirements in the UK.

The match between Brazil and Argentina was supposed to be replayed in February 2022, but FIFA ruled that it would be null and void and that both teams would receive two points each. This decision was criticized by both sides, who claimed that they deserved to win the match and that FIFA was unfair and inconsistent. The decision also affected the standings and the chances of other teams in the South American World Cup qualifiers, which are very competitive and tight.

The Violent Clashes Between Fans
As if the drama on the field was not enough, there was also violence off the field, as fans of Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Brazil’s Fluminense clashed in Rio de Janeiro before the match. The fans threw stones and bottles at each other and the police had to intervene with tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. Several people were injured and arrested in the brawl.

The clash was apparently triggered by a dispute over the allocation of tickets for the match, as some Boca Juniors fans had bought tickets for the Fluminense section and tried to enter the stadium with them. The Fluminense fans, who are rivals of Corinthians, the hosts of the match, did not accept this and confronted the Boca Juniors fans. The situation escalated into a violent confrontation that lasted for several minutes and caused damage to cars and shops in the area.

The clash was condemned by both clubs and by the authorities, who said that they would investigate the incident and punish the perpetrators. The clash also raised questions about the security and the organization of the match, which was already under scrutiny due to the Covid-19 situation and the health protocol dispute.



Ashraful Arefin

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